Product Review of HudsonAlpha iCell
HudsonAlpha iCell is a reference app with cool, interactive graphics that teach kids about cells. Kids tap to choose animal, bacteria, or plant cell on the main page. Each cell is colorfully designed, but none of the structures in the cells are labeled, so beginners may have a difficult time navigating their way through the cells and remembering what they learned. Once kids tap on a structure, the structure name pops up and explanatory text appears at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes the screen automatically zooms in on a structure, but kids can zoom in or out and can rotate cells for a 360-degree view using their fingers. At any point after selecting the cell type to explore, kids can choose from a menu of text options: basic, intermediate, or advanced.
Exploring the graphics is a great way to start teaching kids about cells. Provide learners with a graphic organizer that they can use to take notes while learning about the cell structures. You might also want to give them unlabeled cell diagrams and have them fill in the labels as they explore each cell. Students could also use the app to study for an exam. Have them work in small groups and take turns trying to name and describe each structure in a cell before tapping on the structure. Others in the group can keep score by tracking correct and incorrect answers.
Students can learn about cells at their own pace. After tapping on a cell structure, they can learn the name and function of the structure. There are three text levels to choose from: basic, intermediate, or advanced. Basic text typically gives one or two short sentence descriptions of structures, intermediate gives longer descriptions with additional vocabulary, and advanced gives very detailed descriptions with challenging vocabulary. There’s plenty to learn about each type of cell, but the app doesn’t provide challenges or activities for kids to test their knowledge or apply their learning.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Kids will enjoy tapping, zooming in and out, and rotating the colorful illustrations, but without challenges or activities, they may not stay engaged for very long. Some games or quizzes would help keep kids interested.
Curriculum and Instruction
Three levels of text provide differentiated learning, which helps kids of varying abilities. Cell structures aren’t labeled until kids tap on them, and there are no opportunities for kids to apply what they learn.
Navigation is easy and instructions are provided. When images of cells first appear, their structures aren’t labeled. Kids who are just learning must randomly tap on a cell to figure out where the structures are located.